Evanston aldermen Monday decisively rejected a staff-proposed ordinance that would have licensed massage and body work therapists.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the only real goal of the nine-page ordinance was to shut down “bad businesses” — ones that are fronts for prostitution. “But this is eight-and-a-half pages of other stuff that goes way beyond that.”
“We’ve put a lot of business owners through a lot of stress and anxiety,” Wilson said. “There’s too much risk of a severe adverse impact on the businesses. This goes way beyond maintaining order and legality.”
Despite efforts to rewrite the ordinance with input from massage therapists, most of the speakers during public comment said the proposal was still deeply flawed.
Jane Neumann, who said she’d been among the people involved in drafting the state massage licensing statute, said the city ordinance could require therapists to violate patient privacy rules and would create unfair restrictions on their ability to advertise their businesses.
Chris Pappas, general manager of the EGEA Spa downtown, said it would make his practice of hiring high school students for summer jobs illegal.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, cast the only vote against killing the ordinance. She said the police need the tools to clamp down on massage parlors that are fronts for prostitution — including one she said had operated on Howard Street and then moved to Church Street in her ward.